The difference in distance was less than 30 metres, but when Mike Ferland skated onto the ice with the Saskatoon Blades for their game-day skate Tuesday at Westman Place he knew times had changed.
Traded to the Blades by the Brandon Wheat Kings at this month’s Western Hockey League trade deadline, Ferland made his return to the Wheat City yesterday and he admitted just walking down the visiting team’s ramp was an unusual feeling.
"I was out there for the pre-game skate today and it’s a lot different coming out this side," the 20-year-old Brandonite said before playing his first game as a Blade at Westman Place.
Playing alongside former Wheat Kings linemate Brenden Walker and Matej Stransky, Ferland is not off to a flying start with the Blades, with a goal and two assists in six games, while the team is playing .500 hockey during that span.
But after spending some time in the dressing room, Ferland is confident the Blades will turn their game around as they ramp up to host the Memorial Cup this spring.
"We all got together and said it’s time to get the ball moving here," said Ferland, who played in the 2010 Memorial Cup as a rookie with the Wheat Kings. "We've got too many skilled guys and such a good team, we can't be losing these games."
GARDNER GOES NCAA ROUTE: It appears the WHL is not in the plans for Wheat Kings prospect Rhett Gardner, who was part of this month’s deal that sent Alessio Bertaggia to the Spokane Chiefs.
Media outlets in North Dakota reported Tuesday that the 16-year-old forward, who plays for the Moose Jaw Midget AAA Generals, has committed to play at the University of North Dakota.
In addition to Gardner’s rights, the Wheat Kings received Marek Kalus and a pair of draft picks when they sent their leading scorer to the Chiefs at the deadline.
ROBISON BACKS BLADES: Despite the team’s mediocre record, WHL commissioner Ron Robison has thrown cold water on the idea that the Blades could lose their spot as the host team in this year’s Memorial Cup.
"We’ve never entertained any other option," Robison told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on Tuesday. "The Blades are the host team."
COUGARS CAN CLARK: The Prince George Cougars fired head coach Dean Clark on Tuesday, with the team sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference with a 14-26-2-4 record.
In the fourth season of a five-year contract, Clark had an 83-163-5-11 overall mark with the Cougars. He is eighth all-time among WHL coaches in victories, with 465 wins behind the benches of the Cougars, Wheat Kings, Kamloops Blazers and Calgary Hitmen.
AROUND THE WHL: The WHL has fined Prince Albert assistant coach Dave Manson $500 for the game misconduct he took near the end of Friday’s game against Brandon at Westman Place … The WHL has cracked down on Portland for incidents at the end of the Winterhawks’ game against Spokane on Monday. Portland C Keegan Iverson is facing a suspension of a length to be determined for a hit to the head at the end of the game, while RW Joe Mahon was suspended one game for his third game misconduct of the season and the Winterhawks were fined $500 for a multiple-fight situation … Victoria LW Alex Gogolev has been named the WHL and Canadian Hockey League player of the week after racking up three goals and nine assists in four games, helping the Royals stretch their winning streak to five contests … Cam Lanigan of Medicine Hat is the CHL goalie of the week, having gone 2-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and a .982 save percentage last week.